Long-term effects of peer victimization on social outcomes through the fourth decade of life in individuals born at normal or extremely low birthweight
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Exposure to early adversity is known to have deleterious effects on brain-behaviour relations across the lifespan and across a range of domains. Here, we tested a cumulative risk hypothesis of adult social functioning and health outcomes in the fourth decade of life, using the oldest known longitudinally followed cohort of survivors of extremely low birthweight (ELBW; <1,000 g). We investigated the additional impact of peer victimization in youth on social outcomes at age 29-36 years in ELBW survivors and matched normal birthweight (NBW; >2,500 g) participants. In the combined sample, peer victimization was associated with lower likelihood of having children and household income, poorer family functioning and self-esteem, more loneliness and chronic health conditions, less social support, and increased likelihood for contact with police. Moderation analyses indicated that among ELBW survivors, compared to their NBW counterparts, victimization was more strongly associated with being convicted of a crime and with having chronic health conditions. These findings highlight the negative long-term impact of peer victimization on all children and that some outcomes may be differentially affected by prenatal and early post-natal environments. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject Exposure to early adversity has deleterious effects on brain-behaviour relations across the lifespan. Extremely premature children have higher rates of exposure to adversities, including peer victimization. Peer victimization is associated with adverse outcomes in adulthood in those born at term. What does this study add? Victimization negatively impacts the social outcomes of those born extremely premature and at term into adulthood. Associations appear to be affected by individual differences in prenatal and early post-natal environments. Intervention is crucial when peer victimization occurs in children at risk, as well as those typically developing.
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